Best Bars in Hongdae

Programs for this blog post

Teach In South Korea Program

Authored By:

Hyosam J.

Hongdae, the neighborhood surrounding Hongik University in Seoul, is famous for its art scene, cafes, shopping, and nightlife. The first two times I went to Hongdae I went clubbing at places like… well I don’t quite remember. But on any given weekend there are more than enough people and clubs to keep you out until the sun comes up. As I familiarized myself with the neighborhood, I discovered a handful of cocktail bars perfect for a chill night with friends, grabbing a few drinks before a night of clubbing, listening to DJs and live performances, or writing blog posts. I will highlight my favorite of the more laid-back bars in and near Hongdae that aren’t conventional Korean bars found elsewhere.



Vinyl and liquor bottle packed shelves

650 is conveniently located in the heart of Hongdae, so my first time here was the first stop of a night of clubbing on Christmas weekend with my orientation friends. It’s easiest to walk from the Hapjeong or Sangsu subway station, depending on if you’re taking line 2 or line 6. Here we enjoyed high-quality drinks made by an experienced bartender and served by a cordial server who spoke English fluently. The drinks here are the best on this list–the best I’ve had in Korea. The atmosphere of 650 is also one of my favorites, with plenty of comfortable seating, outdoor space, and tasteful decorations including a wall neatly cluttered with vinyl, liquor bottles, and top hats. 

I recommend the Equator, the signature cocktail that is well worth the price as it will surely get you tipsy. Otherwise, they have a long list of liquors and cocktails, and can even make drinks that do not appear on the menu. They serve drinks with styrofoam textured ring-shaped chips that are light and addicting. If you’re tired of somek (soju and beer), I highly recommend ordering a carefully concocted cocktail here. Overall, 650 is the best on the list for getting high-quality drinks and conveniently meeting friends for any occasion.


Bar Da (바다)

Holding beers in Bar Da

With relatively cheap drinks and eclectic decorations, Bar Da is the closest to a dive bar I’ve seen in Korea. It’s also located in the main part of Hongdae, just a short walk from exit 9 of the Hongik University subway station. So if you’re looking to hop around to different bars or clubs, be sure to add Bar Da as one of the stops. I prefer 650 for the drinks, seating, and space, but if you’re simply looking for a convenient location with cheaper drinks (that isn’t soju), Bar Da is the best in Hongdae. They serve drinks here with peanuts and anchovies with gochujang–a peculiar bar snack… Anyway, I’ve also found that more foreigners frequent Bar Da over any other on the list, and given the seating arrangement, it’s quite easy to make a new friend if you’re seated at the bar! Bar Da is different from any other bar I’ve seen here, so if you want to experience the closest Korea has to a dive bar, it’s worth checking out.


Manpyeong (만평)

Vinyl player in Manpyeong

Manpyeong is a vinyl music bar in walking distance from the Hapjeon subway station in an area just south of Hongdae called Sangsu. Due to its location, it may be a bit inconvenient if you're thinking of clubbing. But if you are looking for a chill night out, every Friday and Saturday night the bar invites DJs who curate sets alternating between two vinyl players built into a wooden table. Their sound system fills the room with anything from ethereal voices over electronic beats to American 60s classics, accompanied by silver disco lights spinning across the walls, floors, and dimly lit wooden tables and bar. As a fan of vinyl, I paid close attention to the DJ who listened and timed the start of the song in queue, then carefully swapped the completed record for the next. Additionally, because it is a smaller bar, it was easy and comfortable to converse with the friendly DJ.

When I went to Manpyeong, I ordered a gin and tonic which was served with peanuts. The drink options here are a bit limited and tend to be on the weaker side, so don’t expect to have a wild night drinking here. Despite this, I will certainly return and I recommend going on a Friday or Saturday night to check out vinyl DJs. Even if you are indifferent to vinyl, this is a relaxed bar with a stimulating but not intense atmosphere, perfect for a chill night.


Jebidabang (제비다방)

Overhead view of the band playing at Jebidabang

Just a short walk from the Sangsu subway station, Jebidabang is a cozy cafe during the day and a bar at night. Any given day between Wednesday and Sunday, they feature different musical artists for mini-concerts on the bottom floor. I arrived late for the concert, at around 9 pm, so the small room was already packed with audience members to the staircase. So instead, I sat upstairs which featured a black and white projection of the trio on stage that night. There are also seats surrounding a gap in the floor located above the performers, so customers upstairs can look down at the stage from above (as pictured). The microphones were connected to speakers all around the bar, so regardless of where you’re seated you can clearly hear the artists' . 

After the group played their encore, I stayed out of curiosity to see how the mood of the bar changed. I personally liked the Pink Floyd and Beatles music played after, and many customers stayed to enjoy drinks and chat. But after the concert, I did not find it as comfortable or pleasant as other bars. Additionally, the drinks were not particularly notable. So if you're planning to grab drinks and meet friends, I recommend the aforementioned bars. And for doing work, the next bar on the list is preferable. However, the performances are intimate cultural experiences unique to Jebidabang so I will be sure to go again soon.


Chogo (초고)

Drink and book served at Chogo

Chogo is a literature-themed bar also located in Sangsu, just a short walk from the Hapjeong Subway Station. This bar is ideal for reading, writing, doing work, or having a quiet, comfortable conversation with a friend. I was confused my first time going since the entrance is quite discrete. Don’t be alarmed by the dark staircase going down to the basement floor… after a few turns, you will encounter a bustling room with a high ceiling, brick walls, tables neatly packed side by side, and filled bookshelves. Many other bars in Korea play American pop, rock, or R&B music. However, Chogo tends to play softer, unobtrusive music laying a tranquil backdrop that perfectly compliments reading or writing. 

Luckily, the first time I went to Chogo with a regular who explained that the cocktails featured on the signature menu are named after poems, accompanied by ratings based on the strength of the drink. I ordered 캣콜링 (Cat Calling) (pictured above) which came with the book it’s resting upon along with ridged rectangular crackers which I hadn’t seen at another bar before. My friend helped me read one of the poems in the book which made for a memorable experience. I highly recommend Chogo to anyone with an interest in literature, looking for a place to work with a soothing atmosphere, or wanting a new experience with a friend.


The Five Alls

Black and white cat sitting on the bar

For any cat lovers, add The Five Alls to the top of your list. The Five Alls is a pub with cheap cocktails and a variety of food options just a short walk from exit 6 of the Hongik University subway station. The most noteworthy aspect of this bar are the three cats. Upon entering the pub, I spotted a thin grey cat cuddled up on a the corner barstool. And once I was seated, I noticed a fluffy black and white cat occupying one of the seats at our table. Finally, a fluffly orange cat appeared and ate his food right behind me. These cats are free to roam the pub–jumping onto tables, chairs, and the bar. 

The menu indicates the ingredients of the drinks and the alcohol percentage, which was particularly helpful for their original drinks. Because of the cheap drinks, food options, location, and cats, The Five Alls is quite a popular pub. There was only one table available when I went, so don't be surprised if you have to wait for availabilty on the weekends. I went to this bar for the first time today (the day I'm publishing this), but I'm certain that I will come again soon.